A bench of Chief Justice G Rohini and Justice Sangita Dhingra Sehgal observed that it was “always open to the existing users of WhatsApp who do not want their information to be shared with Facebook to opt for deletion of their accounts,” and has directed WhatsApp to delete all data/information/details on their servers of all users until September 25, for both the users who choose to delete the application as well as those who retain the application on their mobile phones.
Information shared via WhatsApp messenger after September 25 will be allowed to be shared as per the new policy.
The directions were issued while disposing of the PIL to block sharing of information between WhatsApp and Facebook. Imperial College, London student Karmanya Singh Sareen and Amity Law College student Shreya Sethi had moved the high court in the PIL,contending that WhatsApp’s policy “severely compromises the rights of its users and makes the privacy rights of users completely vulnerable.”
“If users opt for deleting the WhatsApp account before 25/09/2016 the information/data/details of such users should be deleted completely from WhatsApp servers and the same shall not be shared with Facebook or any group companies,” directed the bench, adding that “as far as users who opt to remain in WhatsApp are concerned, the existing information/data/details of such users upto 25/09/2016 shall not be shared with Facebook or any one of its group companies.”
The new policy gives users the option to “opt out” of sharing information with Facebook “for marketing purposes” but says that “undelivered messages” will be retained for 30 days and “media messages” where a large number of people may be sharing a “popular picture or video” could be retained for a longer period.
Observing that there is currently no regulatory framework for Internet based Messaging services such as WhatsApp, the Delhi High court directed the Central government and Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) to “consider the issues regarding functioning if internet messaging applications like WhatsApp and take a decision at the earliest as to whether it is feasible to bring the same under statutory regulatory framework.”
The Central government, through standing counsel Kirtiman Singh, told the court that Internet messaging applications had “not yet been brought within the purview of statutory regulatory framework” and the process of creating such a framework had started in March 2015.
Senior advocate Pratibha M Singh, who represented the two petitioners in the PIL, said that the “path breaking order” upholds privacy.